Presidential Powers

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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The executive authority given to the president of the United States by Article II of the Constitution to carry out the duties of the office.

Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution provides that the "executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States," making the president the head of the EXECUTIVE BRANCH of the federal government. Sections 2 and 3 enumerate specific powers granted to the president, which include the authority to appoint judges, ambassadors, and other high-ranking government officials; VETO legislation; call Congress into special session; grant pardons; issue proclamations and orders; administer the law; and serve as commander in chief of the armed forces.

Article II gives the president authority to recommend measures for congressional consideration. Pursuant to this authority, presidents submit budgets, propose bills, and recommend other action to be taken by Congress.

Veto Power

Under Article I, Section 7, of the Constitution, "every bill" and "every order, resolution or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary" must be presented to the president for approval. This "presentment" requirement does not apply to constitutional amendments, procedural rules

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of each house, and several other types of legislative action.

Under the Constitution, the president has ten days (not counting Sundays) in which to consider legislation presented for approval. The president has three options: sign the bill, making it law; veto the bill; or take no action on the bill during the ten-day period. If the president vetoes the bill, it can be overridden by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress. If the president takes no action, the bill automatically becomes law after ten days. However, if Congress adjourns before the ten days have expired and the president has not signed the bill, it is said to have been subjected to the pocket veto, which differs from a regular veto in that the pocket veto cannot be overridden by Congress.

In 1996, Congress gave the president the authority to select particular items from appropriation bills and individually veto them. The federal line-item veto authority (2 U.S.C.A. §§ 691 & 692) gave the president the ability to impose cuts on the FEDERAL BUDGET without vetoing a bill in its entirety. The line-item veto, like a regular veto, could be overridden by a two-thirds majority vote of both houses.

This law was immediately challenged as a violation of SEPARATION OF POWERS by five members of Congress. They argued that line item veto disrupted the historic balance of powers between the legislative and executive branches

The president's executive powers include the authority to issue proclamations and executive orders. In April 2003, President George W. Bush, flanked by John Ashcroft and Mel Martinez, signs a proclamation commemorating the 35th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.


and that it violated Article I, Section 7. The Supreme Court, in Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 122 S.Ct. 1700, 152 L.Ed.2d 771 (12002), refused to hear the case, dismissing it for lack of jurisdiction. The Court held that the legislators lacked legal standing to bring the lawsuit because they could show no personal injury from the new power.

The constitutionality of the line-item veto act was finally adjudicated in Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417, 118 S.Ct. 2091, 141 L.Ed.2d 393 (1998). The Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional because it violated the Constitution's Presentment Clause. Under the Presentment Clause (Article I, Section 7), after a bill has passed both Houses, but "before it become[s] a Law," it must be presented to the president, who "shall sign it" if he approves it, but "return it," ("veto" it) if he does not. Nothing in this clause authorized the president to amend or repeal a bill.

The veto gives the president enormous power to influence the writing of...

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